A 102-run stand between Mohammad Hafeez and Umar Akmal allowed Pakistan to put on their most competitive batting display in limited-overs matches against South Africa in the last month and break a six-match winless streak
A 102-run stand between Mohammad Hafeez and Umar Akmal allowed Pakistan to put on their most competitive batting display in limited-overs matches against South Africa in the last month and break a six-match winless streak. With both batsmen enjoying their first half-centuries in 13 innings, South Africa were required to chase the second-highest total in T20s at Newlands.
The hosts started as though they would get there but their innings was halted by Pakistan's spinners, led by Shahid Afridi who took the first three wickets. Bilawal Bhatti, in just his second match, showed the variations needed to stem the run flow of runs so that even a 34-run blitz in two overs by David Miller and JP Duminy at the end was not enough, with Sohail Tanvir bowling low full tosses at the death.
The example for seamers was set by Bhatti, who used both the yorker and the slower ball bouncer to good effect, unlike South Africa's seamers. They lacked the control that is usually provided by Lonwabo Tsotsobe. Morne Morkel and Dale Steyn started well but both fell into an over-reliance on the short-ball.
This time, Pakistan's openers were able to deal with them comfortably. They saw off the barrage and attacked the rest. Nasir Jamshed showed ominous signs when he tore into both South Africa's front-liners.
Ahmed Shehzad was equally confident but he slashed at Wayne Parnell's first ball and was caught at slip. That over turned into a wicket maiden as Mohammad Hafeez gave himself time to settle in.
The next shot in anger was off a free-hit, when Parnell overstepped and Hafeez sent his bouncer into the stands. Jamshed tried to charge Aaron Phangiso, off the first ball of spin he faced, and was stumped, to allow South Africa to pull Pakistan back to a scoring rate of under six an over before Hafeez really got going.
He beat Steyn at short third man to hit his first four, played a delicate leg glance off David Wiese and then launched Phangiso for two straight sixes down the ground. Akmal started his boundary count with a similar shot. Hafeez brought up his half-century - the first of this marathon limited-overs series against South Africa - with a sweep off Duminy.
With the spinners nothing but cannon fodder, Faf du Plessis brought back Wiese but he could not land two balls in the same area. Morkel's third over was similarly wayward. He pitched it up and Akmal hit him for six, he went short and wide and Akmal did the same, just with a different shot. Parnell was also unable to contain and it was only when Steyn came back that runs dried up.
Hafeez was caught at mid-of, trying to hit Steyn over the top and that slowed Pakistan down. They promoted Shahid Afridi up the order in the hope of finishing strongly but he was horribly out of touch. He played and missed at most of the next over before handing back to Akmal.
While Afridi was a liability to Pakistan at the end, and they managed just 31 runs in the last four overs, he made up for it with the ball.
Hashim Amla and Quinton de Kock seemed up for the task as they motored their way to 49 runs in the first five overs. De Kock played the expansive shots, a drive through extra cover, a pull off Junaid Khan, while Amla accumulated runs with the fine-tuned placement and timing he is known for.
Saeed Ajmal kept things quiet in the last over of the Powerplay before Bhatti continued his impressive start to international cricket. Nine runs came off their first two overs and it was enough to prompt de Kock into going for a big shot.
He tried to slog sweep Afridi's first ball but did not get enough on it and Jamshed took a good catch at fine leg to give Pakistan their first breakthrough. Bhatti kept up the strangulation with an array of short balls and varied pace to frustrate du Plessis.
In Afridi's next over, de Plessis pulled to deep midwicket to take the catch. With AB de Villiers still at the crease, South Africa's hopes stayed alive. But when he tried to be innovative against Afridi, he failed. De Villiers stepped outside the leg stump and was bowled.
South Africa needed 90 runs off 51 balls and despite Amla and Duminy's efforts to work the ball around and find the occasional boundary, the required run-rate became too great. Miller and Duminy turned it on against an out of sorts Junaid Khan as the end approached to leave themselves with 17 runs to get off the last over.
Tanvir took the pace off while keeping his length full to ensure Pakistan squared the series and moved up to No.4 on the rankings. South Africa have dropped from second to third.